The Head Speed line was originally created to give future world No. 1 and now co-G.O.A.T., Novak Djokovic, a signature line.
Head did well to lock down the most recent entry into tennis’ 'big three’ as Babolat had Nadal, and Wilson had Federer. Unfortunately for the Austrian brand, while Djokovic’s results on court may soon eclipse those of his two biggest rivals, his marketing ability is nowhere near as potent. Whether it’s due to his less charismatic personality or aesthetically pleasing game, it is undeniable that the Speed has never sold as well as Rafa’s Pure Aero, or Roger’s Pro Staff.
Fortunately for us, that has nothing to do with the line’s performance. The Speed has always been a great frame, filling a gap somewhere between powerful tweeners, and more controlled, players’ rackets. The last two Speed MPs were great at delivering on the line’s goal, but lacked in certain areas; this version may be one of the best yet.
Tweener style rackets were created to be light, 100-square inch powerhouses. They evolved as an attempt to tackle the ever more baseline-centric style of play creeping into the early 2000s. As opposed to heavier rackets with a smaller, more traditional head size, tweeners were forgiving, and user friendly, making them ideal for a tired and slower stroke after a grueling rally spent doing suicides between the two ends of the court. The main issue with these tweeners was their distinctive lack of connection to the ball. This “feel” problem left many high-level players unconvinced. The sporadic and unpredictable response was enough to overshadow the benefits of these frames making them unplayable for many.
The Head Speed MP fills that void. It has some of the original tweener DNA in its 100-square inch head size, 300-gram static weight, and more v-shaped, throat, making the racket inherently powerful. But with its relatively thin 23 mm beam and low flex of 61 RA, this racket falls closer in profile to those more controlled, players’ sticks. You could say its 35% tweener, 65% players’ frame.
The new Auxetic Speed marks a significant improvement over the previous generation. While the old Speed felt somewhat erratic and overly powerful, this new version has a lower launch angle, giving it a far more precise response off of the stringbed. With the old Graphene 360+ Speed MP, I often felt that I was spraying the ball all over the court, and could only control the racket by altering my game in putting artificial amounts of spin on my groundstrokes. The new version can still spin the ball as much as any other frame, but also feels more solid and stable when flattening out the ball and pressing on the gas. Basically, the Auxetic Speed responds better to a wider variety of groundstrokes; the racket isn’t forced into one style and lets the player control the ball’s response off stringbed.
Another major improvement to the Auxetic Speed MP is in its “feel.” Feel is personal, but also has certain characteristics that are generally considered more positive or negative. The older version of the Speed had a somewhat pingy and harsh response on contact. It was also a bit muted; you often didn’t know where you were hitting the ball on the frame. This made the racket feel disconnected and all the more uncontrollable.
The sweet spot of the Auxetic Speed MP feels much softer, but also gives the ball a more crisp and notable launch than on the previous generation. This is the first Head racket in which I can feel a major difference between the older Graphene 360+ and the new Auxetic technology. When pocketing the ball, Auxetic tech feels like you are pulling a rubber band taught, aiming it where you want to shoot it, then launching it out with a “thwack” directly at your intended target. It’s far more precise than its predecessor.
One of my only gripes with groundstrokes on the Auxetic Speed MP is in its weight. Because of its thinner and softer profile, this racket needs more mass to compete with more traditional tweeners (like the Pure Drive or Extreme) from a stability and power standpoint. In stock form, it has a similar static weight to that of those rackets, and with a low-ish swingweight of 323, I fear it may get pushed around when the rallies get heavy. Nothing a bit of customization can’t help!
Thanks to the Speed’s lower launch angle, it also feels much more solid through the slice. It doesn’t cut at the ball as much, but rather pushes at it, giving it more punch, depth and a more predictable response. Most importantly, it is a confidence inducing racket on the slice; it doesn’t require you to adapt your technique. It won't have the top end performance of rackets with 18x20 string patterns (like the Speed Pro), but you won’t have to worry that you might cut the ball into the ground or spin it into the sky like with some other 16x19s.
It is also a very nice stick to volley with, one of the best in the 100 square inch family. Auxetic technology allows you to feel the ball on the stringbed for an extra split second, so you can guide your volley where you want it to go. It isn’t the most stable frame at the net, but it’s also important to point out that a lighter racket is more maneuverable, and that can be invaluable when reacting quickly.
With a racket named “Speed” you would expect it to be fast through the air, and it is just that. Thanks to this speed, you can bring the racket quickly through the serve, and the 100 square inch head size will help you power the ball into your opponent’s court.The head size on this racket also makes it forgiving on the return and able to push most big serves back to the opponent. You don’t have to focus on finding the sweet spot or worry about paying the consequences of a slightly mistimed shot. Again, a bit of extra mass would help this racket crush the ball even more on both serves and returns, but its light weight makes it easy to adjust mid stroke when things might not be going as planned.
The most stand out element of the Speed MP has always been its versatility, and that certainly hasn’t changed for 2022. It’s a racket that holds its own against any other from the baseline, but also one that won’t lose in feel at the net, or on more refined shots, like the slice. This is a clear improvement on the previous Speed and shows me that Head are going in the right direction with their technological changes. Auxetic feels great, and while it doesn’t radically change the core DNA of the Speed line, it has massively improved the feel.
This is a racket made for every player, and while it may not be “the best” in any one field, its ability to adapt to any style and compete on any stroke is really what makes the Speed so special. Come demo one in store or buy yours at racketsandrunners.ca.